Valerie Cagle, Clemson top Auburn to reach NCAA softball regional championship game

·2 min read
Dawson Powers/Special to The State

With Auburn’s Makayla Packer on second representing the tying run, Valerie Cagle struck out Sydney Cox to advance the ACC’s Tigers to the championship round of the Clemson Regional with a 1-0 victory Saturday at McWhorter Stadium.

It was Cagle’s 100th pitch of the afternoon, as the sophomore pitched a complete-game shutout. She also scored the game’s lone run off a Marissa Guimbarda double in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Clemson will play in the championship round at noon Sunday against the team that emerges from Saturday’s elimination bracket games — either Auburn, Louisiana or UNCW.

Play of the game

Clemson took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning when Cagle got a two-out double for the Tigers’ first hit of the afternoon. Guimbarda then followed with a blooper to left field to score Cagle for a 1-0 lead.

It appeared Auburn’s Nelia Peralta was going to make a Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder-catch, but the ball popped out off the tip of her glove and over leftfielder Lindsey Garcia’s. The rolled into left field, allowing Cagle to easily score from second and Guimbarda to reach second with a stand-up double.

Cagle comes through

Clemson head coach John Rittman made the decision earlier in the week to throw Millie Thompson in Game 1 Friday against UNC Wilmington and rest his First-Team All-ACC performer in Valerie Cagle in case the Tigers had to play No. 2 seed Auburn.

His decision paid off on Saturday.

Following Thompson’s no-hitter, Cagle pitched a complete game shutout. The ace allowed just four hits, struck out six and did not allow a walk.

Key moment

Auburn loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth inning.

The SEC Tigers had something going when pinch hitter Jessie Blaine got on with an infield hit to third. Cagle’s one true mistake, a fielder’s choice error to second, allowed Kelsey Schmidt to reach. Lindsey Garcia then singled to right field to load the bases.

However, McKenzie Clark, who led Clemson with three hits on Friday, got on her horse a tracked down Carlee McCondichie flyball to center. The sophomore then made a perfect throw to home plate to keep pinch runner Kenadie Cooper at third.

Cagle got out of the jam when she got Auburn’s best hitter, Peralta, to hit into a force at short.

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